Spaghetti Arrabbiata is the perfect pasta dish for those who love a little heat. This garlicky marinara is given a kick with the addition of spicy cherry peppers, and crushed red pepper flakes. Finished with basil, spaghetti al Arrabbiata is the perfect combination of fresh, smoky, and spicy flavors, and because it can be made in under 30 minutes, it's one of my go-to's for a quick meal.
Pasta arrabbiata is the dish I make when I am craving spicy food, and am short on time. Arrabbiata is Italian for angry, or enraged, making this pasta aptly named.
The heat from the cherry peppers while not significant, is enough to pack a punch and bring a glowing flush to your face.
While I grew up putting cherry peppers on all sorts of food, the first time I ever had arrabbiata was actually as an adult.
One of my favorite Italian restaurants in Long Island, La Parma, served an incredible variation of fried calamari tossed in an arrabbiata sauce.
I loved how they combined whole cloves of lightly browned garlic with cherry peppers in a tomato based sauce. It was something we'd order regularly every time we went.
Since then I've been recreating arrabbiata at home and putting it on everything, including shrimp arrabbiata.
How to make spaghetti arrabbiata
- In a bowl, use clean hands to crush the plum tomatoes. Alternatively, you may add the tomatoes to a blender and pulse a few times to break them up.
- Remove the stems and seeds from the cherry peppers and give them a rough chop. Slice the garlic.
- In a large pan over medium-low heat, saute the garlic in about a ¼ cup of olive oil.
- Once the garlic is lightly golden, add the cherry peppers and crushed red pepper flakes, cooking for another 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato paste and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the plum tomatoes and give the ingredients a stir. Bring to a low simmer, stirring frequently.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoons of kosher salt) to a boil and cook the spaghetti to al dente. Add the al dente pasta to the saucepan and cook for 30-60 seconds on medium-low heat.
- If needed, add a few ounces of pasta water to loosen the sauce. Toss the pasta or stir to coat well. Remove from the heat. Before you serve, hand tear fresh basil leaves and add to the pasta. Serve with grated Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Which peppers for spaghetti arrabbiata?
Pasta al arrabbiata can sometimes be thought of as a synonym for fra diavolo.
While both are known for their spice level, I like to make them different. Fra diavolo, most commonly served as Shrimp fra diavolo, gets its heat from crushed red pepper flakes.
While arrabbiata also uses red pepper flakes, it does have a higher spice factor, and distinct smoky flavor from hot cherry peppers.
NOTE: Most recipes on the internet will use just crushed red pepper flakes. But, many Italian restaurants in NY/NJ will use cherry peppers. Cherry peppers (vinegar peppers) are widely available in this part of America and chefs use them often. I find the use of just chili flakes rather boring and encourage you to give these flavorful peppers a try. But use what you like. I reiterate this time and again on the Sip and Feast YouTube channel, and want to encourage you to make these recipes your own.
I usually use the red and green hot cherry peppers that come jarred. If you've visited this site before, you know how often I use these peppers - like in my chicken scarpariello, pork chops with vinegar peppers, and orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe.
I also love Calabrian chili peppers as a condiment to foods needing a bit of a kick.
Calabrian chilis tend to be spicier than cherry peppers, and would definitely be a welcome addition to spaghetti arrabbiata. If you do decide to use them, give them a taste test first to ensure you are not adding too much heat.
Adding a few anchovies (mash them up with your spoon while sauteing the garlic) can add a wonderful additional flavor to arrabbiata.
If you're a lover of spicy food add more red pepper flakes and cherry peppers. Though this is one of the spiciest Italian recipes, it will not be very spicy for someone who enjoys Indian or Thai food. So add more heat if necessary!
As mentioned above this sauce goes well with shrimp, but you could use it on any type of seafood.
Clams and mussels or lobster would be excellent!
More quick pasta recipes
Since spaghetti arrabbiata can be made in a little bit of time, it's one I turn to often. I've also got a few more of my favorite quick pastas. All of these can be made in under 30 minutes.
- Pasta al limone - creamy and comforting lemon pasta
- Linguine aglio e olio - pasta with garlic and oil
- Bucatini cacio e pepe - pasta with cheese and black pepper
- Spaghetti Amatriciana - pasta with pancetta, tomatoes, and Pecorino Romano
- Spaghetti carbonara - classic Roman dish using eggs, guanciale, and Pecorino Romano
If you’ve enjoyed this spaghetti arrabbiata recipe or any recipe on this site, we want to know so tell us in the comments below. We would love to hear how you did and it’s nice to show others as well. Thanks!
Watch the video below where Jim will show you how to make this recipe with easy to follow instructions. Some people learn by watching. If you're that type of person, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 28 ounce can high quality plum tomatoes hand crushed or blender pulsed
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 medium cherry peppers seeded and stems removed, chopped
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- ¼ cup basil chopped
- In a large pan over medium-low heat, saute the sliced garlic in a ¼ cup of olive oil.
- Once the garlic turns lightly golden (about 2 minutes), add the cherry peppers and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3-5 minutes stirring frequently.
- Add the plum tomatoes and give it all a stir. Bring to a low simmer, stirring frequently.
- While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoons kosher salt) to a boil and cook pasta to al dente.
- Add the al dente pasta to the pan and cook for 30-60 seconds on medium-low heat. If necessary add a couple ounces of pasta water to loosen if required. Toss the pasta or stir to coat well. Turn off the heat and plate immediately.
- Hand tear basil leaves and add to the pasta right before serving. Serve with grated Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
- Cook the pasta very al dente so that it can be finished in the sauce. Finishing the pasta in the sauce will allow the sauce to stick and not slide off the pasta.
- More salt might be needed depending on the brand of tomatoes used.
- Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days.